Northeastern blows 17-point lead, falls to Charleston in CAA final in OT

College of Charleston's Cameron Johnson, center and Nick Harris, at right, guards Northeastern's Vasa Pusica, at left, during the first half of an NCAA college championship basketball game in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament at the North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, S.C., Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Mic Smith/AP
Northeastern's Vasa Pusica, who scored 30 points, feels the pressure from Charleston defenders Cameron Johnson (12) and Nick Harris.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Joe Chealey had 32 points and the College of Charleston rallied from 17 points down in the second half to win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament championship and earn its first NCAA Tournament berth in 19 years with an 83-76 overtime win against Northeastern on Tuesday night.

Fans mobbed the floor when things ended, swarming a team that looked cooked about an hour earlier.

The Huskies (23-10), who were led by Vasa Pusica’s 30 points, were poised and prepared in the opening half, but fell apart after the break. They turned the ball over 15 times in the second half and overtime to fuel Charleston’s rally.


After rallying to tie, the Cougars caught fire in the extra period. They hit their first four shots, including a pair of 3-pointers by Marquise Pointer to take a 75-69 lead. Northeastern could not come back.

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The Cougars (26-7) looked done early in the second half, trailing, 42-25, after Pusica’s 3-pointer with 17:27 to go. But Charleston ramped up the pressure — it forced 14 turnovers in the second half — and tied it at 65-all on Chealey’s layup with 10.1 seconds to go.

Charleston got the ball back with the chance to win in regulation, but Chealey’s long 3-pointer hit off the front of the rim.

Jerrell Brantley gave the Cougars their first lead of the game, 67-65, in overtime before Pointer’s first three gave Charleston the lead for good. Two minutes later, Pointer did it again as the large, loud crowd at the North Charleston Coliseum exploded in delight.

Northeastern’s last chance disappeared when Pusica lost the ball out of bounds on a drive with 40 seconds to go.


Shawn Occeus added 19 points for the Huskies, who saw their nine-game winning streak ended.